Programs in naturopathic medicine prepare people to work as naturopathic doctors. Students learn to treat patients using natural and nutritional healing. They learn to use herbs, bodywork, and energy work to promote health. They also learn to counsel and educate patients, and to refer them to other types of doctors when necessary.
If you've ever heard of naturopathic medicine, you may have wondered what makes it different from "regular" medicine. In fact, naturopathic doctors do believe in several principles that may seem to differ from the conventional medicine you're used to. One principle is treating the whole body instead of just a specific part of it.
So if you came in with stomach pain, a naturopathic physician would ask you questions not just about what you've been eating. He might also ask about your emotional and spiritual well-being. Naturopathic doctors believes that all of the factors that make up who we are - physical, environmental, and spiritual - need to be examined even when it seems as though only one part of us is not well.
Naturopathic doctors also believe in treating the root cause of an illness and not just a symptom. A conventional doctor might give you some medicine to ease your stomach pain. A naturopathic physician would try to determine the underlying causes for the pain.
It might not be just the bad piece of pizza you ate; it also might be that you were too tired to make yourself a nutritious dinner. If that were the case, your naturopathic doctor would help you figure out how you could make your life less stressful and tiring. He would also show you how to live a healthier lifestyle to avoid this kind of illness in the future. As you might guess from the term "naturopathic," this type of medicine favors the healing power of nature over the healing power of, say, Pepto-Bismol.
If you're interested in this approach to healthcare, you should consider studying at a naturopathic medical school and not a "conventional" medical school.
You should also keep in mind that naturopathic medicine does not deny or ignore the work done by conventional doctors. In fact, as a naturopathic medical student, you would study many of the same subjects that students in conventional medical schools do.
These subjects include human anatomy and physiology, medical terminology, pharmacology, and cardiology. But you would also learn different therapies and procedures that are exclusive to naturopathic medicine. You would study less invasive, more natural ways of treating health problems. This might include massage therapy and botanical pharmacology (getting medicine from plants), to name just a couple.
Four schools in the United States offer accredited programs in naturopathic medicine where you can earn a Doctor of Naturopathy (N.D.) Most of these programs take about four to five years of full-time study after getting your bachelor's degree. In total, you will typically need between eight and nine years of full-time study after high school to get your N.D.